March 31, 1944 — A long letter home from Anzio

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March 31, 1944 — A long letter home from Anzio

By the time you get this you will have seen, or will see some time, a write up about me in the Commercial. Also they will say I was given the Silver Star [Phil’s first of many medals of valor, the Silver Star was the Army’s 3rd highest valor award after the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross]..

Anzio Beach Italy[1],[2]

My dearest Mother and Dad:

By the time you get this you will have seen, or will see some time, a write up about me in the Commercial. Also they will say I was given the Silver Star. I’m not going to try to write about what happened because the correspondent who talked with me did a better job than I can do, and he put it in a nicer way than I could because all I remember is the mud, dirt, dead and how wet I was.

Any way I will send the Star home for you to keep until I get to where I will be able to wear it. I am proud of it tho. I hope it won’t get lost on the way.

We are out of the lines now back in a rest camp where we are training. We have to get the new men that have joined us in the last two months all trained. But we are eating swell and can move around a lot.

I was with the outfit for 30 days on the line and you could not move around during the day. You had to stay in your hole all day and keep your head below ground level, because this battle field is on very flat ground and the mountains about 5 or 6 miles north and east are owned and operated by the squareheads [Germans) and they can look right down our throats and every time some one on our front lines moves they throw all kinds of arty. at us.

But every nite as soon as it started getting dark, my Platoon and I started moving up to the front lines, (we lived about 600 yds behind the front line) and passed through them because all my work was done in front of the lines. There we laid barbed wire or anti-personel(sic) mines or what ever the platoon had to do. We worked all nite and left only so we could get back to our foxholes by dawn.

But now that is over for a while. But you shouldn’t worry too much (I know you will some) because I have good men in my platoon and every time a Jerry patrol has caught us our in front of our own lines, we just beat the hell out of them guys and turned the tables on them. You see the Jerrys hear us working out there so they send some men out to try to capture us. But it always, always ends up with us killing and capturing some of them. So we don’t worry too much about them.

I have gotten two letters from you number 1 and 11, and am sure that the rest will be in soon. It was wonderful to get some mail from home. I do hope that my mail is coming through now. This is one of the few letters I have written where I did not use V-mail because even tho I can’t write as much it comes to you much faster.

During all my spare time around here I have to spend studying, writing lectures, and censoring mail, and that platoon of mine sure can write a heck of a lot of mail. But I don’t mind sitting around late at night censoring mail because as soon as I get it out the sooner it will get to their homes.


NOTE: this is from another company commander about censoring mail:

My thoughts kept returning to the courage and determination of the men in the foxholes. I began to sign my name to the bottom left corner of the envelopes which comprised the day’s mail from the men in the company. Except for the official censorship stamp that would be imprinted on the envelope later by the mail orderly, Corporal Robert G. Brodhead, of Chicago, the letters would not be censored further.[3]

Phil’s letter continued:

The days are getting warmer down here and it is beginning to feel like spring is here. I hate in one way to see hot weather come. Dad can tell you what the battle field is like when it gets hot. But I do hate to freeze as bad as I have some of the nites when we had to cross streams with water up to our arm pits then have to work out in a muddy field with a cold wind blowing. It ain’t no fun.

I haven’t written Marilyn in three or four days because I’m quite sure she gets tired of the same thing in every letter I write. So I will just wait until I get some mail from her. I’m sure you have sent her my address (the new one) by now. But if my mail has been coming through then she has it by now.[4]

Back here in rest camp I had my first bath is 30 days. Also I took my undershirt, pants, shirt and trousers off for the first time also. I slept, back here, with my clothes off for the first time.

I think folks that is all for now as it is very near time for supper. I hope this finds you all in as good health as I am.

Write soon With all my love,


As he reviewed his men’s letters to their moms and girlfriends, he missed his mother and Marilyn even more and wrote them two to three times a week. But there was still no mail from Marilyn.[6]


Writing in a later letter, about his Silver Star, Phil said:

This is how I got it: One night we attack and took a couple of houses from the Jerries. It took them most of the night to do it, so it was dawn when I got an order to move up to these houses and put an Anti-Tank mine field on the road. They were afraid the Germans would try to take the houses with tanks.

When the Major that commands my Bn. was briefing me he talked to me just like a father. For you see anyone that moves around during day light hours on the front line they shell the heck out of that area instantly. Well the Major knew I would have to crawl out of the flat open road and would be in plain view of the Jerries only 100 yards away.

I went up to the houses, had to crawl 500 or 600 yards and then out on the road, laid my field and crawled back in the ditch, then about that time all hell broke loose, but I was on my way back.[5]


[1] I have two records of this letter. The first is the one handwritten by dad. It’s dated 30 April 1944. But it’s in an envelope postmarked April 5, 1944. The second is the same letter typed, I suspect by his mother, Ethyl. Her typed letter is dated 30 March 1944. She was meticulous, the timing seems to fit March better, so I suspect that is the correct date. Of interest, she deleted the paragraph on Marilyn,

[2] Handwritten letter. No envelope. Apparently Ethyl typed a different date when she typed this letter.

[3] MacDonald, 30.

[4] Note – of interest, this paragraph is in Dad’s handwritten letter but NOT in the version likely typed by his mother.

[5] This paragraph was in the typewritten letter. The handwritten one was mailed on 16 Apr 1944.

[6] Larimore. At First Light: 103.

In case you haven’t read or listened to Dad’s book, you can learn more or order it here.

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